On Being a Neurotic Traveler

We’re leaving for London in four days.  Because it is a school trip, most everything is planned out through the educational tour companies.  But because my sister is coming, and she lives nowhere near school, the heathens and I are going down to her house, then taking the Trailways from Portland to Logan International in Boston.  So…we have to get our own bus tickets, etc.  …which for a normal person is not that big a deal.  For me, however, that involves checking and rechecking and rechecking the bus schedule.  Let’s see:  if the flight leaves at 10 p.m. and we have to be there three hours beforehand for security, we should take the 3:30 Trailways so we’ll be there at 5:40, because the next bus would get us there at 7:05–and we’d be five minutes late to be three hours early!

Welcome to my travel neurosis.

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’m traveling with my sister.  When I emailed her about the bus, she told me she’d been checking the bus schedule, too.  And rechecking.  And rechecking.

It’s the same with packing.  Last weekend, I made the heathens sit at the dining room table to make packing lists.  We need to know what we need to buy before we go.  We need to know what has to go through the laundry. Rosalie looked at mine–which I had written in the handy-dandy notebook on March 28th, Monday, three weeks ahead of time (I might forget something, so I need to start the list early)–and commented on the minuteness of detail.  I had to explain to this child who has lived with me for

These are great for airports...

13 years that if I didn’t write it down, I would forget it.  I think she took this to heart, for her list also contained details:  how many socks, how many pencils.  We discussed her shoe options carefully before she noted her decisions:  comfortable shoes for the mammoth amount of walking we’ll do; easily doffed shoes for security in the airport.  On Ben’s bathroom list:  toothbrush, toothpaste, nuclear weapons, shampoo, deodorant.  Just don’t say dumb things like that at the airport, Bud, or we’ll all get arrested. He’s a constant source of amusement, that kid, but he tends not to have a positive effect on my blood pressure.

The schedule, once we get to London, has also occupied my thoughts lately.  Free time–when is it?  I have an invitation from Stephen Benatar, author of The Man on the Bridge, to call him when I’m in London, to see if we might go for a drink.  I’ve already packed his phone number in my suitcase–I did that last month, in case I should forget.  Once we get in, I need to call, because I’ve found a couple of afternoons when this might work out.  Of course, I had to bug Karen to help me sort this out; fortunately, she’s known me now for well over 20 years, and this is the fifth school trip we’ve taken together; she is familiar with my neuroses, and at least pretends to put up with them.

The last part of this England adventure, though, I must do on my own.  The group, including my sister and the heathens, will be flying back to Boston on Saturday the 23rd.  However, I am staying one extra day–because the Oysterband is playing at the Gosport & Fareham Easter Festival on the evening of the 23rd, and I have scored a ticket.  Thus, on the morning of the 23rd, while everyone else is preparing to leave, I’m getting on a train at Waterloo and zipping to Fareham.  I’ve got the train schedule printed out, with times, prices, everything.  Once there, I have a reservation at the Roundabout Hotel, which I made back in January–I have that information all printed out, too.  I ordered my ticket from Ferneham Hall back in January–it’s a good thing I did that then, for even in January they were nearly sold out.  Sunday morning I’ll have to take a bus from Fareham to Heathrow–it leaves at 5:35 in the morning, so I’ll get to the airport exactly three hours before the flight home; and yes, I’ve printed out the bus timetables, too.  Then the flight, then the Trailways back to Portland, my sister picking me up at the bus station, and I’ll drive myself home after that.  It’s all so carefully choreographed.  I’ve even emailed the Oysters to ask if I might speak to them while I’m there–I did that way back in February, and got a positive response from Ian Telfer, about which I’m mightily excited.

I ordered my pounds sterling two months ago.  Every morning before I leave for work, I open the suitcase and just touch my money and my passport and my Oysterband ticket, just to feel the vibes.  If this is not neurosis, I don’t know what is.

Oh, and thanks to my friend Becky, the heathens and I have had those suitcases to stash things in since February, and in March, my friend Brenda took me to a store called Passport in Harvard Square, where I was able to find a cute–and adult-looking–over-the-shoulder perfect for passports, money, and other small necessities.

Four more days.  Have I forgotten anything?


  1. Becky Welsh

    I share each and every neurosis. When I travel, i check and recheck and check and recheck, sometimes every 5 minutes just to make sure. I understand.


  2. Jenny Doughty

    I also check and re-check, but perhaps not quite as much as you!

    I managed our recent marathon five week trip to the UK and Spain with one pair of shoes – my wonderful Finn Comfort Aussee (see http://www.finncomfort.com/collections/prod_detail.aspx?style_sku=82526&name=Aussee) which almost cost me the leg on which the foot resides to buy, but I have worn almost every day for almost a year since with total comfort. They are smart enough to go anywhere if you are wearing trousers (and we travelled in February/March when it was far too cold for skirts). They also kick off readily to go through airport security. And I also have summer sandals from the same company. This is not spam, honestly!


  3. Elderly Friend

    I’m a trained logistian curtesy of Uncle Sam and the US Army but you certainly have me beat. Congratulations and have a wonderful trip.


  4. Had to reread (and enjoy again) this post as I am experiencing my own bout of preparation panic. Leg #1 leaves Saturday, and my anxiety extends to leaving sub plans and supervision of the teenager plans, as well as the packing and logistics of travel itself. Plus, there’s something dreadfully scary about leaving some of the arrangements to other people. Loss of control…I don’t do well with that.

    So, I will need a tip on the suitcases to stash things. I have been pondering that same question for Japan.


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